“We are all able to enable “were the parting words of the Honourable Minister Molwyn Joseph, the Minister of Health and the Environment, Botanical Gardens and World Heritage Sites of Antigua and Barbuda at the closing reception at Government House on the 6th December 2017 hosted by His Excellency, the Governor General, Mr Rodney Williams and Lady Williams, the Founder and President of Halo Foundation.
Drawing the three-day conference to a close, invited guests and the delegates gathered for an evening of gratitude and appreciation and to enjoy the talent of persons with disabilities. Sir Rodney Williams, opened the evening with remarks sharing his appreciation that the I am able conference had landed on the shores of Antigua and Barbuda and the continued commitment of his office and the Halo Foundation to helping persons with disabilities. It was Lady Williams who shared the exciting news of new initiatives that her Foundation would implement in light of how touched she has been by the conference and its outcome.
The Halo Foundation announced three commitments which included:
- Providing free public transportation for persons with disabilities from Barbuda if they wish to travel home before the end of the year.
- One scholarship per year for a child with special needs to attend the victory centre.
- An annual award for a person with disabilities who have demonstrated exceptional abilities.
Wasting no time to prove their commitment, the first award of the person with exceptional abilities was awarded to an entrepreneur with disability who made concrete statuettes. He was awarded with a shield with a check of 1000 USD.
Minister Joseph revealed that he had spoken to the Honourable Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and received the cabinet approval to set up an I am ABLE commission. He expressed that it was now his responsibility to ensure that the Commission will have an office, staff and full-time staff. The Commission will harness the optimism and ideas that emerged from the conference. Additionally, it will serve to monitor, implement and enforce the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will be a place where persons with disabilities can register their complaints to ensure an accessible and inclusive society.
Sujae Boswell, the regional representative for the Caribbean and Americas expressed his thanks to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the High Commission to the UK for supporting the implementation of the ideas of youth. He further announced that the Commonwealth Youth Council will run a pilot of an I am able youth disability advocate programme in the schools of Antigua and Barbuda which will seek to create effective disability advocates. Additionally, a collaboration with the National Youth Council of Antigua and Barbuda will lead to running a Vote Like a Boss campaign for persons with disabilities to help with the analysis of policies and encourage us to participate in the electoral process.
He was followed by Mr Calvin Ayre, the President of the Calvin Ayre Foundation, who expressed his content with funding such an initiative and the need to continue to invest in the abilities of all persons in Antigua and Barbuda.
Inspiring the audience, was Hassan Khan, a blind professional cricketer from Pakistan, who shared his story of acquiring a disability at the age of 3 and not having an education for the first 10 years of his life. It was when he was in the United Kingdom when he saw his name in braille that Mr Hassan began his renewed sense of life. He is an advocate for the use of sports to empower persons with disabilities as he reminisces on how far he came from to now having played cricket in the World Cup and various countries including Barbados, Pakistan, and Australia.
The night included performances by Mr Ulric Matthews on the clarinet, poems by Mr Sylvannus Barnes and Mr Neville Peter ended our evening with a series of Christmas songs.